ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 review: Better than Otterbox and half the price

The market for heavy duty cases is as diverse as it is cutthroat, with dozens of makers trying to break in and pry stubborn users away from the standard-bearer that is OtterBox. But ArmadilloTek has been slowly gaining steam with Samsung owners thanks to the functional and darn near indestructible Vanguard Series.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the kind of girl to normally rock a heavy duty case. I'll wear them for a week or so for reviews, but I tend to flee back to clear or lighter hybrid cases on my primary phone. The ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series has been the case my S10 has lived in for a month now, and I still haven't seen a good enough to swap over to anything else, which is probably the most glowing endorsement a heavy duty case can receive from me.

The Good

  • Great drop protection
  • Sturdy vertical kickstand
  • Good feeling to buttons
  • Nice texture to bumper
  • Easier to apply and remove case

The Bad

  • Be careful with Qi charger placement
  • Dust plugs feel stiff at times

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 What never quits

The Vanguard Series has a lot of perks, between the mil-spec ruggedness, the dust plugs that help protect your phone's ports, and the low price, but my favorite part of this case is hands down the kickstand. I'm addicted to kickstands and phone grips, and while the kickstand on Vanguard Series isn't made to be a phone grip, I use it as one all the time and it mostly works great. I can stick one finger through the kickstand for a relaxed grip while sitting or walking about, and the tension of two fingers allows you to reliably use the kickstand as a camera grip when out shooting in bumpy conditions.

The kickstand pulls out easily enough — so long as your nails are chewed to the quick like mine are — and it locks into place for sturdy vertical or landscape phone propping, with a few peeks at the S10's native color visible through gaps in the kickstand grooves. It's easy to collapse the kickstand intentionally, even one-handed, but almost impossible to do it on accident.

This is a case that feels solid and sturdy in the hand without feeling completely unruly, with the kickstand helping that along when used as a grip. The chevron texturing on the sides of the bumper allow for extra grip, and the buttons are firm but not stiff, which all in all makes for a pleasant feeling in the hand that helps make up for some of its bulk.

Heavy duty cases are usually a pain to get on and a pain and a half to get off, but ArmadilloTek makes things almost easy with the Vanguard Series. You'll notice the lip around the plastic frame on the bottom right corner has a slight gap, which allows you to slip your finger in and start working the two halves apart in short order. I have heavy duty cases from Otterbox, Lifeproof, Speck, and others sitting in a box across from my desk right now, and the Vanguard Series is easier to apply and remove than the rest of them combined.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 What could still improve

There are dust/water plugs for the charging and headphone ports on the Vanguard Series, and while they fit very well and don't wear quickly out the way some port flaps do, but the force of the USB-C dust flap worked against me when trying to plug in for Android Auto or a quick charge up. This incentivized me to use Qi charging whenever possible, and while I did have to finagle the placement of the S10 on the charger a tiny bit more because of the added thickness, it did not impede wireless charging completely the way some thick cases tend to.

While the safety cone orange and neon blue seem a bit gauche online, none of the Vanguard Series's half-dozen colors actually look bad in person. I rocked the Purple — it's prettier than the Pink with my Prism Blue S10 — but most of these LOUD colors can make your $900 phone look like a toy at times, which might be a turnoff to some. I hope that some of the more subdued color schemes from ArmadilloTek's Urban Ranger Series (opens in new tab) for the Galaxy S10+ migrate to the Vanguard Series next year, but so long as you choose your color wisely, you'll be fine.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10

Vanguard Series

This case is rugged, reliable, and really easy to like. It's also half the price of most rugged cases and even cheaper than some regular old hybrid cases for the Galaxy S10, which means that if you're hard on your phone, there's no reason not to grab this case. Especially with the wide variety of colors to choose from, this is a heavy duty case that everyone in the family can like in their chosen style.

4.5 out of 5

With the kickstand to prop up the Galaxy S10 next to my Chromebooks or easily grip on the go, the Vanguard Series reminds me that there are still big, bulky cases out there that are more than worth their salt. Whether you're hard on your phone or life is just harder on your tech, this Texas tough case won't let you down.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10

This kickstand case is the epitome of a heavy duty case without a heavy duty tax on its price. Whether you need that kickstand for long hours in the office or superior drop protection out at a job site, the Vanguard Series is made for the working Android power-user.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • Yeah, I would totally use the kickstand for a grip as well. I like that the kickstand works in portrait and landscape orientation, which most of them do not. Too bad they only make cases for one phone! I do have a kickstand case for my phone, but it's a slim one and you almost need a screwdriver to get the phone back out.
  • Casemakers that are a new tend to stick to phones that are popular. That means Samsung.
  • As of now they make cases for Samsung Note9, S10, S10+, and I believe the upcoming iPhone as well.
  • How does this case compare to the Zizo Bolt? The kickstand only works in landscape mode, and it has no covers for the usb-c or the headphone jack. I have always found that the Zizo case is very rugged and has protected my last few phones from drops extremely well. I also like the fact that the sides of the case are slightly higher than the screen, which helps protect it from damage.
  • I have the Bolt for my Note9, it seems inferior to this case. Especially the kickstand seemed flimsy compared to the Armadillotek.
  • My go to case for my Note9, and soon my Note10!
  • I've always wanted to see someone come along and knock Otterbox off their high horse. Those cases are ridiculously expensive for a chunk of rubber and plastic. The quality is lacking as well. Either the screen protector fails to make contact with the screen or the outer soft layer gets stretched out of shape if you take the case off even a few times. They certainly aren't worth the price.
  • Agreed... $53 for the Otterbox Defender, which I like less than this. I take my phone out of the case at home and places where I think I won't need it anyways, and I just don't like hard to remove ones. I do have one that looks really nice by Encased, and it has a metal kickstand, but it feels like a I need a screwdriver to pry my phone out of it's death grip.
  • Yep nice and solid... Wonder why they limit pics from the front? The front plate tests on the glass with no padding what so ever.. Any drops on the front causes the metal to dig Into to the glass (actually this one looks like it is plastic so it should be better) . I've used this.. Not for the s10... And that's where the damage occurs... Other than that it's pretty secure... But it has its Achilles heel.
  • Is this a sponsored review?
  • Nope. They sent me the case, they didn't get any say on when or what my review was.
  • This looks like a Unicorn Beetle Pro variation- wonder if these companies are associated with each other.
  • Any screen protector comes with it?
  • Yes, it has a built in screen protector.
  • Note for the S10 and S10+, it doesn't. It would interfere with the ultrasonic sensor.
  • I agree with most everything here. I ordered this case right away for my S10+. VERY happy with the fit and function of the case. Totally Texas Tough. The only downside... The wireless charging. It does work... if you are very careful in coil placement. Even more so with the S10+. I do have the latest Fast+ dual charger from Samsung on my nightstand. If I'm careful I CAN place the phone and get normal wireless charging while the phone is in this case. However, the new Fast+ charging doesn't kick in. For my dashboard wireless charging in my vehicle, there is a constant connect/disconnect happening every few seconds. If Fast+ wireless charging is important to you, this is not your case. Stick with the Spigen NEO Hybrid. Not as robust as the Amadillo Tech. But does work well with both mobile charging and Fast+ charging. If you are looking to get better than OtterBox performance and a much lower price, Armadillo Tech has built a GREAT solution.
  • Have had this case for about a year and was extremely careful but the kickstand broke. Contacted customer service to order a kickstand replacement but after several Email exchanges with customer service it is clear the customer service representative barely speaks/comprends English as a second language only. Their customer service is a joke.